By Zach Simons
Christmastime is one of the most distinct and memorable times of year. Even if you grew up not attending church, it’s probable that you celebrated Christmas to some extent; maybe in the form of gifts and visits to “Santa” at the mall. Chances are also high that if you were to recall memories or look at pictures of your past, many would be of childhood Christmases. For most people Christmas almost serves as a marker of time each year. Celebrations, proposals, resolutions, family pictures, vacations, weddings … these markers in life often coincide with Christmastime.
While these are all good, Christmastime marks something even greater for the follower of Christ. It is meant to be an annual magnet that draws our heart back to a story that is larger than ourselves, but one that intimately shapes our personal stories as well. As Christians, we celebrate “Advent” which refers to the “coming” of Jesus Christ.
Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for Christmas, the day of the Lord’s coming as a human baby. This waiting gives us space to reflect on a few things. Namely, that Christ entered into humanity. Why is this significant? It means he has already lived this human experience, bearing pain and sorrow and the sins of the world — which culminated in his death — for us. Because of his life, death, and resurrection, we have hope. It means that we don't have to do life alone. He knows your journey through this great wilderness (Duet. 2:7) and offers a life in relationship with the God of the Universe and in fellowship with other believers. It also means that our suffering in humanity is not eternal. Christ's work on the cross defeated the power of sin and death, and one day in glory with him, the presence of sin and death will also be removed. So we live in the tension between the temporary pain of a broken world and the hope of future glory, sorrowful yet always rejoicing.
“Sorrowful yet always rejoicing” — this phrase is a great way to describe the mood of Advent. As a yearly reminder of this tension, Advent provides us the space to get in touch with the longings of our hearts for the promised second coming of Jesus, and to be joyful that his first coming assures us this promise will not fail.
By Zach Simons